Make no mistake, Vladimir Putin is a thug, a neo-Tsarist xenophobe and complicit in the chain of events that led to Ukranian separatist rebels mistakenly downing a civilian airliner. He should reflect on his performance and its result, and he should begin to make what amends he can offer. Nothing that follows mitigates against any of the above.
“….As of 1993, the United States had not apologized to Iran. In 1996, the United States and Iran reached “an agreement in full and final settlement of all disputes, differences, claims, counterclaims” relating to the incident at the International Court of Justice, including a recognition of the incident in the form of “…the United States recognized the aerial incident of 3 July 1988 as a terrible human tragedy and expressed deep regret over the Loss of lives caused by the incident…” As part of the settlement, the United States did not admit legal liability but agreed to pay on an “ex gratia” basis US$61.8 million, amounting to $213,103.45 per passenger, in compensation to the families of the Iranian victims…”
That’s from the Wikipedia entry for the Iran Air civilian aircraft shot down over the Persian Gulf by a missle fired by the U.S.S. Vincennes in 1988. Although the Gulf was certainly a tense environment in which the U.S. Navy and Iranian military forces were operating in close proximity, it was not by any means a region of actual armed conflict. Yet Vice President George H. Bush declared that he would “never apologize” for U.S. actions or the Iranian deaths that resulted from the tragedy. While regreting the loss of life in the tragedy, as Mr. Putin has done, the U.S. refused to apologize to Iran for the incident and Presdient Reagan insisted that our warship had fired the missle “in a proper defensive action.”
By our own standards, Mr. Putin is not required to apologize or reflect seriously on a damn thing at present. And Russia as a whole ought not to be expected to apologize anytime before 2022. And compensation for the victims of the tragedy in the Ukraine should not be forthcoming until 2025.
This tired planet is at present still organized politically as a collection of nation-states, and with that as a given, it is inevitable and practical that those states will at times be overly competitive, uncooperative or engaged in outright conflict. And so, the maintenance of military and intelligence capabilities remains, too, inevitable and practical. That those capabilities will, in turn, be subject to sudden instances of grievous and horrifying miscalculation is also a certainty. This is the world now.
But nationalism — everyone’s nationalism — is also the first and last refuge of dishonorable, hypocritical rogues.